Amnesty International has charged the Mexican government with deliberately covering up the attack on their convoy of buses and misleading the public through official accounts on Wednesday. The human rights’ organization has joined several others in decrying the governement’s handling of the disappearance of 43 teaching students in route to a protest in Iguala, Guerrero nearly a year ago.
“The Ayotzinapa tragedy is one of the worst human rights tragedies in Mexico’s recent history,” Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “It has exposed how anyone can be forcibly disappeared into thin air in the country with those in power focused on covering up the traces.”
Jesus Murillo Karam, then Mexico’s Attorney General, said back in January that said there was “no doubt” that the students were killed when they were mistaken by the gang Guerreros Unidos for a rival gang. “The evidence allows us to determine that the students were kidnapped, killed, burned and thrown into the river,” he said at a press conference. Murillo Karam stepped down a month after he made that statement due, in large part, to public outcry for his mishandling of the investigation into the students’ disappearances.
The allegations by Amnesty follow a six-month investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which was released earlier this month. In its report on the disappearances, the Commission found that the government’s account of the event was scientifically impossible.
The five independent experts who conducted the investigation said that the amount of wood or tires needed to burn 43 bodies would have left an obvious mark on the terrain. No evidence of such a vast conflagration was found at the site where DNA evidence of two of the missing students was found.
The Commission’s experts further suggested that the students were not attacked because of their plan to protest government officials, but rather because of the bus they took to Iguala.
“All the attacks against the students were directed at stopping the buses leaving Iguala,” Carlos Beristain, one of the experts who assembled the report, told a press conference following the release of the report. “This should be investigated as a possible motive for the attacks.”
He said that the bus may have been one laden with opium, which is trafficked out of Guerrero by drug gangs.
Despite the evidence raised in the report that questioned their narrative of the abductions and murders, Mexican authorities arrested Gildardo Lopez Astudillo, the leader of Guerreros Unidos gang, on Sept. 17. The government has claimed to have detained more than 110 people for ties to the disappearances.
“The Mexican government’s unshakable determination to convince the world that the students were killed by a drug gang and their remains burned in a dumpster is distracting from any other valuable lines of investigation,” said Guevara-Rosas of Amnesty International. “In particular, they should look into the military and law enforcement agencies’ role in the tragedy after they failed to take action despite being aware of the abuses against the students as they were taking place.”
As independent investigators amass evidence to refute the government accounts of the disappearances, the families of the victims have continued to call for their loved ones to be returned alive.
“The government’s farce has collapsed, and the question is where are our children,” said Mario Cesar Gonzalez, the father of Cesar Manuel Gonzalez, one of the disappeared students. “We demand that they are returned alive.”